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Chilean Literature

Chilean writers are among the best in all of Latin America: in fact, they’ve won two of the four Nobel prizes for literature awarded to Latin Americans (Awarded to Chileans Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral, Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Guatemalan Miguel Angel Asturias).

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957), whose real name was Lucila de María del Perpetuo Socorro Godoy Alcayata, was more than a talented poet: she was also a diplomat, feminist and educator. Her poems deal with Latin America, love, betrayal and loss. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945. She is still well-known in Chile although not so much elsewhere.

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), another poet, is better-known than Mistral. Unlike Mistral, Neruda is considered more of a world poet than simply a Chilean one: Gabriel García Marquez once called him “The greatest 20th century poet in any language.” After his Nobel Prize, he was invited to read his poetry at Chile’s national stadium: 70,000 attended. His poetry is hard to define, but it’s visceral, elegant and often erotic or romantic.

Even more famous than either Mistral or Neruda is Isabel Allende, niece of former President Salvador Allende. She exploded onto the literary scene with La Casa de los Espiritus (“The House of the Spirits”) in 1982 and never looked back. Although her later novels are not as literary as The House of the Spirits, there is no denying her broad appeal: she sells millions of novels in several languages.

Luis Sepulveda is a major novelist who scored an international hit with his 1992 classic "The Old Man Who Read Love Stories." He writes novels and short stories and his new works are eagerly awaited by an appreciative Chilean public. His "The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly" is a children’s book beloved around the world.

Roberto Bolaño, who died young in 2003, is widely considered one of Chile’s best modern writers: his novels are often mysteries or detective tales, yet literary. Marcela Serrano is a highly regarded young writer whose works are mostly about women and their relationships with one another.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Chile: Language in Chile,

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
24 Jun 2009

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